World Leader Pretend

Song Review by

"World Leader Pretend" holds a certain place in R.E.M. mythology: six albums into their career, it was the first (and only) song to have printed lyrics appear on the album's packaging. Not only that, but Michael Stipe sings the lyrics without the occasional mush-mouthed slurring that made some of even his more straightforward lyrics impenetrable. This still doesn't make the song particularly easy to grasp on first hearing; "I raised the wall and I will be the one to knock it down" is an evocative phrase, but what exactly it's a metaphor for remains oblique. Musically, the song is a paragon of mid-period R.E.M., so much so that some elements of the arrangement almost verge on self-parody, particularly Mike Mills' falsetto moans on the chorus and Pete Buck's arpeggiated guitar chords. However, Jane Scarpantoni's cello and Bucky Baxter's pedal steel introduce rich new textures into the familiar R.E.M. sound.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Green 1988 Warner Bros. 4:15
Nightswimming 1993 Warner Bros. 0:00
Complete Rarities Warner Bros. 1988-2011 2014 Concord / Universal 5:16
Complete Warner Bros. Studios Albums, Vol. 1 2014 Rhino / Warner Bros. 4:19
Complete Studio Albums:1988-1996 2016 Concord / Universal 4:20
Best of R.E.M. at the BBC 2018 BBC / Craft Recordings / Craft Records / Universal 4:39